WASHINGTON, D.C. – With Senate Republicans expected to unveil their 2016 budget later today, here are ten things to watch for when asking whether it’s a budget that works for America’s middle class, or yet another budget for the best off:
1. Infrastructure investment
Does the budget invest in significant infrastructure improvements – putting Americans to work immediately, repairing crumbling roads, bridges, and water infrastructure, and laying the foundation for long-term economic strength? Or does it fail to invest in serious job creation and continue to allow our roads and bridges to disintegrate?
2. Closing tax loopholes that ship jobs overseas
Does the budget do anything to close tax loopholes that subsidize the cost of shipping American jobs overseas? Or does it continue to allow counterproductive tax deductions that increase the deficit and contribute to the outsourcing of good American jobs?
3. Giving our kids a Head Start
Does the budget boost investment in Head Start, giving more working families an affordable pre-K option that gets kids off to a stronger start in school? Or does it slash one of the best investments in our children and our future workforce?
4. Affordable higher education for working families
Does the budget invest in community college and Pell Grants to provide a solid foundation for Americans from working families seeking higher education? Or does it undermine these priorities and cut Pell Grants – as past House Republican budgets have?
5. Taking on costly student loan rates
Does the budget work to bring down the cost of federal student loan rates – for instance, ensuring that students pay rates that are no higher than what the biggest banks pay when they borrow from the Federal Reserve? Or does treat students as a massive profit center for the federal government?
6. Food security for American families
Does the budget maintain food security for families going through tough times? Or does it make draconian cuts to food stamps by “block granting” the program, as past House Republican budgets have?
7. Protecting and strengthening Social Security
Does the budget protect Americans’ earned Social Security benefits? Does it strengthen those benefits by moving to a formula that more accurately reflects the costs seniors face, while shoring up the Social Security trust fund by removing the cap on payroll taxes? Or does it hurt seniors and threaten earned benefits by embracing “Chained CPI” or unspecified cuts that would be likely to come out of seniors’ pockets?
8. Protecting and strengthening Medicare
Does the budget protect and strengthen Americans’ earned Medicare benefits? Or does it threaten those benefits by changing Medicare into a voucher program, or making cuts that would likely come out of seniors’ pockets?
9. Standing up for consumers
Does the budget stand up for consumers and middle-class families with strong funding for the regulators tasked with implementing Wall Street reform? Or does it give Wall Street the gift of lax oversight by slashing funding for the regulators who are supposed to be looking over Wall Street’s shoulders, or undermine the independence and effectiveness of the successful new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?
10. Tax fairness for the middle class
Does the budget implement the “Buffett Rule,” which would require all Americans making over one million dollars per year to pay at least the same tax rate as middle class families? Or does it continue or even expand tax loopholes that allow the wealthiest of the wealthy to pay effective tax rates that are often lower than those of hardworking middle-class families?
The answers to these questions and more will be revealed as the budget is unveiled and the Senate Budget Committee – of which Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley is a member – discusses and debates the proposed budget this week.